Are you nursing a late season injury? It always seems that many triathletes end up with end of season injuries after that final A race. Some are just from repetitive motion, others from upping mileage, and some from muscular balances. During the off season the focus tends to be building for races. Strength training goes by the wayside in the summer when the priority is on racing and as a result imbalances in muscles tend to create problems.
What everyone wants is a way to rehab or prevent an injury while continuing to train. Kinesio tape can be an answer. Kinesio tape was first seen worldwide in the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Many will remember in the 2008 Bejing Olympics how Kerry Walsh and Misty May drew attention with their use of kinesio tape. People wondered if they were sporting new tattoos. The women used kinesio tape to play through injury. Kinesio taping is not new. It was developed in the 70’s by Japanese doctor Kenzo Kase. He developed a tape to mimic the properties of human skin. His goal was a sports taping method to assist in the healing of traumatized tissue. Regular sports tape could support an injury, but it also restricted range of motion. Tape that mimicked the properties of skin would allow for motion while supporting joints and muscles.
Dr. Kase found that kinesio tape helped to create more space by lifting fascia and soft tissue around an area of pain or inflammation. It also assisted in the removal of edema (fluid under the skin) by facilitating lymphatic drainage. In the early 1990’s after moving to Colorado for graduate school I went to the Sports Medicine Department at the U of Colorado at Boulder for help with my knees. I was diagnosed with patella tracking syndrome. To help develop the muscles around my knees they used kinesio tape and electronic muscle stimulation. The tape gave me immediate relief. I could feel the support and could really work on strengthening the “quads” include the vastus medialis, vastus medialis obliquus, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis and rectus femoris. After a couple of sessions I learned to tape my knees myself. I had to cut different length strips and place them in various places on/around my knees. Because kinesio tape supports muscle, it helps improve muscle contraction in weak muscles. It reduces muscle fatigue and prevents excessive exertion, contraction and cramping, while simultaneously increasing range of motion.
This is just one use or way to apply kinesio tape. Structural support can allow for better position of joints. It can also, when needed, restrict some of the range of motion. Typically the tape is stretched in this use while the muscle is relaxed during application.
Another way to apply is for microcirculatory purposes. When you stretch the tape and the muscle you can reduce edema. By taping and following the pathways of the lymphatic system you can reduce bruising, swelling, or fluid build up.
Finally in many cases it is for neurosensory. Using the tape can result in a decrease in neural perception of pain which helps with chronic pain. In this case the muscle is stretched, not the tape during the application.
Kinesio tape is designed to stay on for 3-5 days. The challenge with kinesio tape is that you need to know how to apply the tape, how to cut the tape and when and where to stretch the tape. A company in Canada has stepped up to the market with a solution – pre cut tape with easy to follow instructions for application. Spidertech offers 16 pre cut applications that can be applied 50 different ways. Their one size applications fits over 80% of the population.
Why would triathletes be interested? Decrease pain, prevent injury, and/or help rehab injury while continuing to train and to increase performance (a couple studies have shown that using the tape can decrease the onset of muscular fatigue and improve biomechanics)! There has been some research done on Kinesio tape by manufacturers and practitioners.
In the study, the Clinical Efficacy of Kinesio Tape for Shoulder Pain: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Clinical Trial
the following was observed: “KT may be of some assistance to clinicians in improving pain-free active ROM immediately after tape application for patients with shoulder pain. Utilization of KT for decreasing pain intensity or disability for young patients with suspected shoulder tendonitis/impingement is not supported.”
Most of the studies that have been done read like that – there some change or improvement, but nothing spectacular. So what does this mean for athletes who aren’t professionals, but just trying to stay in the game. It won’t hurt you and might help, so give it a try. It is best to find a practitioner to diagnose your ‘problem’ and then teach you how to apply.
Caveats on using:
– need to clean and dry the skin (excess hair may need to be removed)
you cannot touch the adhesive or apply then take off and try to apply again (it will not stick)
have to let it sit for 1 hour before activity or getting wet
A few athletes and triathletes in the Albany, NY area tried some of the Spidertech products. Ashley found that it gave her knee more support, so she had no discomfort for a 4 mile run. 2 days later she tried a run without the tape and had pain just a few minutes after starting. Paula has been suffering from plantar fasciatis and said she did not notice an appreciable difference. Karen taped a knee that had been bothering her during tennis and did find relief. Kristen taped Mark’s knee just before a strength training workout. He immediately felt relief, however since it was applied and he started working out right away it fell off mid workout as he started to sweat more.
Dr. Tim Maggs with Structural Management in Albany uses kinesio tape in his practice. He said at the Southern Saratoga Y 5K race, “I am surprised more athletes have not discovered it”.
Spidetech is the sponsor of a new Canadian cycling team. You can see who is riding for Team Spidertech here. Lucas Euser was 24th in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado in August. Ryan Roth won the 160-kilometre Univest Grand Prix in Penn. in a three-men sprint finish to the line in September. His teammate Francois Parisien won the King of the Mountain jersey as well as the most aggressive rider prize.
Do you have experiences with kinesio tape?